Month: May 2021

Happiness of the poor children. Taken in Chupah district, Gialai province Vietnam.

The “us” love

The “us” love

I was reminded today about the three loves each believer has by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. These loves are the love of God, love of us, and love of people. Today, I would like us to focus on the love of us.

Of course, love of us includes love of self; this is Biblically correct. However, love of self extends beyond us as individuals. We find in the New Testament God’s guidance to make us “individuals” into us as a community. We all need others, even introverts like me. For everyone, Jesus expects us to bond together. We should know and be known by our Christian brothers and sisters. We should find solace in them during times of tragedy, strength during hardships, shared joy in our blessings.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Peter 4:8-11

Essential attribute

The essential attribute we find in a community of believers is consistent, holy lives of adults that love and invest in the children of their community. Kids need safety, and they desperately need to see and experience the broad spectrum of personalities, ethnic diversities, and professions of God-fearing brothers and sisters that are our communities.

Kids need to see how we settle disagreements (Colossians 3:13) and build Christ-centered communities. We need to live what the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) and we should learn from what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27)

Our kids need to see and experience how to contribute to the community. Kids need to learn how to give without the expectation of receiving, how to strengthen the brokenhearted, how to weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. We all need this, no matter how long we have served Jesus.

It takes a community of believers

The phrase “It takes a village” has become common vernacular. I’m not sure about the village metaphor, but I do know that to raise up children to be contributors to the kingdom of God, it takes a Christ-centered community abounding in good works and steadfast dedication to living our new lives in Jesus. The local church should be the center and facilitator of a Christian community, but that’s not always the case.

A community of believers can spring up from a common cause, such as a mission to the homeless, a food pantry, prayer meetings; any number of overt expressions of God’s will can cause a community to be birthed. There are countless communities of international believers that still avoid the “bigness” of their community; they remain personal. After all, it’s not a community if we can’t speak, pray, teach, worship, and work together.

It’s okay to be a member in several communities

We are not limited to a single community of believers. God has not called us to be gadflies, but there is no command that I’m aware of that constrains us to a single Christian community. The local church should always be and remain our first community. Still, there are others to which God may guide us. Two that come to mind are “Faith Driven Entrepreneurs.” If you are a Christian small business owner, this is a great community to join and Prison Fellowship (i.e. angel tree).

The good news

So, the good news is that God does not expect you or me to be disconnected from fellow believers. We must pray and seek communities that God has created a place for us. And we should never forget, our local church is our preeminent community in which God desires us to fellowship and grow. And we must commit to what God’s Word says in Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

That’s it. Someday, I hope to join you in a believers’ community!

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash


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Out ‘n In

In California there is a super delicious fast food restaurant chain called In ‘n Out. I love their food, and they have a secret menu! Well, we’re not talking about In ‘n Out, though my brain is telling me that I really need one of their burgers. Sorry, squirrel! Today we are considering God’s consistent message of Out ‘n In.

Out ‘n In

In Genesis 12:1, we find, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” God moved Abram out of his country and into a land God gave Abram. While in Genesis, we can’t overlook Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. In Genesis 31:2, we find, And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

God told Jacob to get out of where he was and go into the land God promised Jacob and his father and grandfather. Over and over, God takes His people out of wicked places and puts them in places that are full of God’s promises.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” 

Revelation 2:7

God will take the one who conquers out of this wicked world and put that person in God’s paradise – This verse in the book of Revelation is for every follower of Jesus.

In and sent

Now here is an odd thing. As we’ve seen, God consistently takes His children out of what is wicked and puts them in places of abounding promises. But we find Jesus doing something different:

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one… As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world

John 17:15, 18

Why did Jesus pray something that seems opposite of what God has consistently done for thousands of years? Undoubtedly, Jesus established a new paradigm. Christ’s will, as God, is to keep His apostles and, by implication, His followers in this wicked world. In fact, He doesn’t even want His followers to sequester themselves. No, Jesus sends us into the world to tell the Good News that Jesus has overcome the world, and in Him we can be saved!

Let that sink in for a moment. God put Adam in the Garden, God put Abraham in the promised land, and God put Jacob in the promised land. In the book of Revelation, God puts His conquerors in paradise. But when it comes to our lives, in our times, God doesn’t put us in someplace new. In fact, when we are reborn, Jesus sends us into this wicked world. He’s taking the fight to the evil one.

Hidden in God

Beginning in the New Testament, God’s focus is moved from working externally with people, primarily the descendants of Jacob (Israel), to living within people. When Jesus becomes our Redeemer, our Regenerator, our Reconciler, He makes a way, the only way, for God to live in a person. The way God lives in us is when we are in Jesus. Throughout the New Testament, God’s Word tells us that to be a Christian means that we are “in” Christ Jesus. Consider:

For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God. 

2 Corinthians 5:21

God cannot look on sin. We, as children of Adam, are unrighteous. We know that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), and the result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This truth is why none of us get out alive. The default for people is hell. By Adam’s nature, people are unrighteous and condemned convicts, waiting to receive their sentencing. But now, if we receive Christ’s victory, then when the Father looks on us, He sees Jesus. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

Receive His peace

So, here’s the good news: If you are in Jesus, then you are “hidden with Christ in God.” When we pray, God isn’t a bazillion lightyears away. He is not a distant God. God is here, right now, even as you read this. And He loves you more than you can comprehend.

You don’t have to fight through throngs of demons to reach your Savior because you are already in Him, and you and He are in this incomprehensible place of being hidden in God. So speak to Him. Pour out your heart to Him. Seek your place in Him. Ask Him for what you need. He is within you, and you are hidden in Him. Receive His peace!

Photo by Katherine Auguste on Unsplash


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broken folding ruler

A Lesson from a Broken Ruler

This picture is of Dad’s folding ruler. It’s designed so each section snaps into place as sections are folded or unfolded. As a kid, I was always fascinated by this device. And as I matured, I used this tool when helping Dad. One warning Dad always assailed me with was, “Don’t flex it or it will break;” then one day I broke it. It was an accident, but I certainly knew that if I flexed it, it would break; and break it did.

Dad didn’t get angry, though the flame started. He rarely ever got angry, and he never lost his temper. Still, he’d had that tool for at least forty years before his son broke it. Being a child of the Great Depression, he kept the tool and continued to use it. Eventually, I inherited it. I love this tool.

If Dad told me once, he told me a thousand times to not bend the ruler. One day I did and it broke. It’s been broken for fifty years. From this sad event, I learned that a thousand warnings can be undone by a single mistake. And once it’s broken it stays broken. This is the way trust is.

All the times we are trustworthy may never be remembered but break someone’s trust once, and he or she will never forget it. And, like this old folding ruler, it stays broken. Oh, the folding ruler could be mended, but the scar would remain.

Likewise, the injured party may forgive, may reconcile, maybe even trust us again. Paul’s trust in the disciple Mark was restored (2 Timothy 4:11). But broken trust is never forgotten; at best, it leaves a scar. It’s always the quiet one in every room we enter.

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Matthew 24:42

We should seek Jesus and receive His salvation. We should seek forgiveness for any trust we break. Amen.

Photo by me 😀

folding ruler

An Improver

When I look at this image, I quickly picture Dad’s hands pulling it from a pocket and measuring whatever it was that he was going to improve. Dad was an improver. That was his calling.

Improving soldiers in WWII

While a young man, Dad learned to be an electrician at Coyne Electrical School in Chicago – it’s still in business. Later, he became an instructor there, improving the lives of his students; teaching them a trade that was in high demand.  While in the army, during WWII, Dad taught soldiers how to use the newest technology, the teletype. He improved the military’s ability to communicate critical information and imparted to his students’ skills that they carried into the post-war economic boom.

Still later he became a professor, earned his doctorate, eventually becoming the chairperson of the School of Technology, at Indiana State University. His mission was to improve how to teach technology; and he always taught. Professors and students alike gained technical skills and life skills through his work. Eventually, a scholarship was created in his and my mother’s names.

Improving houses

Being an educator was never enough. Dad always improved whatever he touched. Growing up, as a family, we moved at least fifteen times, and Dad never stopped. Before he passed, he had remodeled more than twenty homes. At age eighty-four, improving the last house he would own, he built an entire bathroom which successfully passed the city’s building inspection.

Anyone that knew Dad, knew Dad. He was the same person, whether participating in the faculty senate, teaching in a classroom, or handing me this folding ruler. I remember who Dad was when I was young. Now that I’m old, I realize that few people are the same, always and in all settings. And in all his roles he found ways to improve the lives of those around him. My wife also has this rare gift.

Improving the people around him

Now Dad loved Jesus with all his heart. So, everyone knew that Dad was completely dedicated to serving Jesus, his Lord and Savior. There were no dirty jokes or crude words used around Dad, not because he forbade them, but people just felt guilty, sullied when they tried these worldly actions in Dad’s presence – I witnessed this first-hand, many times. Dad’s walk with Christ improved those around him

It’s true, this rickety old tool holds no value to anyone but me, and someday it will get tossed in a trash can. But, for now, when I want to see Dad’s hands, I reach for this folding ruler out and let my memories get the best of me.

Jesus the Creator

Though Dad was an improver, our Savior, Jesus, doesn’t improve things, He creates things. There’s an adage that says, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make the dead alive!” This adage is true. None of us needed Jesus to help us be better. We all needed to be born again, born as a child of God, born with the Holy Spirit within us. (Romans 3:23) Better just isn’t good enough for God’s children.

This old, folding ruler helps me to see the hands of my dad, and someday, I’ll again see his hands because both he and I are true believers in Jesus. But before I seek to see Dad’s hands, I will seek to see Christ’s hands. I long to see His nail-scarred hands, to see the One who decided that better wasn’t good enough. Jesus “bought me” from death to life. He is the One I want to first see, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

I pray that each of us are improvers in whatever role God calls us to. But more than that, I pray that you have given your life to Jesus. Amen.

Photo by me 😀


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Military draft in New York in 1917

Soul Obligation

My Military Draft Registration

I’m old enough that I was eligible when America still has the military draft. Whether I wanted to or not, I had an obligation to my country to register for the draft – the pool of men from which the draft board selected candidates for military service.

Our draft board had a large office in the primary United States Postal Service building in our city. The building was impressive and intimidating. I don’t know when it was built, but the main floor’s ceiling was at least sixteen feet high, perhaps even more. 

The builders constructed nearly everything on the main floor with thick marble and filled the seams with brass. There were mosaic patterns on the floor. The moment I opened its enormous doors and stepped inside, my every footstep echoed throughout the room.

In this daunting room, I had to walk fifteen- or twenty-feet to arrive at the foot of the building’s magnificent marble staircase. The staircase led me upstairs to a drab, poorly lit, narrow hallway that provided access to many federal offices. The draft board office was at the end of the hallway, so I had to pass the IRS office, the FBI office, and other government offices, each one making me feel more insecure!

Finally, I reached my destination and walked in. After an eternity and a half, a man came to the counter, which separated me from the office. He greeted me without even a hint of a smile. He knew I was uncomfortable; that was the point. In those days, our federal government required every young man to go to the office to register for the draft. I’m sure that they wanted each of us to understand the solemnity of our actions. We were fulfilling our obligation, and it was an action that was profound. Some of us that entered that office would be killed in action or disabled for life, so it wasn’t to be taken lightly.

Serious Stuff

More intimidating and more profound is our obligation to Jesus Christ, for He said: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) That’s as serious as it gets. Still, I have good news.

During my Bible reading today, I came to a favorite passage for many Christians:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9-10

As the Holy Spirit often does, I saw something new. The words that lifted off the page are “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Now, I’ve often read this passage as God’s permission, something like, “You are a holy nation, so you are allowed to proclaim…” This interpretation is likely valid, but there’s more to it. The word “that” points us to an obligation we have. We love being a royal priesthood and being God’s people, but those privileges bring with them a soul obligation.

Soul obligation

The “me” that is me is my soul. In heaven, we will be known as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13:12) And the me that is known is my soul: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Peter to write our soul’s obligation. We can’t be quiet Christians, stealthy Christians, or Seal Team Six Christians. We must be proclaimers! We must open our mouths and speak of the glories of God.

Telling people about Jesus, about having the Holy Spirit within us, about our heavenly Father is not a difficult yoke (Matthew 11:29-30). Jesus has placed an easy yoke upon us. How marvelously our Savior treats us. So, let’s rejoice in Christ’s easy yoke, and may you “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Photo is Public Domain


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a small plant growing in the desert

Nevertheless

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.

2 Samuel 5:6-7 (ESV)

Notice the “nevertheless.” The verse says, “Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.” He not only won but the city’s name was changed to the “city of David.” So don’t listen to naysayers and doubters, I call these people “firefighters” because they fight against the fire God has placed in you for the work He has called you to do.

It is essential to consider the counsel of your pastor and elders; all things, especially a calling from God, should be done in a proper, respectable, and orderly way. When confirming a call from God, it’s wise to remember Proverbs 19:21 (NIV), which says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

So, God has called you to a work He wants you to do. Praise God, be strong and go forth in faith, strength, hope, and confidence. You accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, so now He “bids you come” (Matthew 14:28).  If God lays it on your heart to “take that mountain” as He did to Caleb (Joshua 14:12) then rest assured, you will succeed. For in God, it’s already done. 

Photo by Jill Heyer on Unsplash


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neon sign "Eternity Now"

Eternity Comes Before Now

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

I heard a commentary recently that reminded me how confusing Christians are to unsaved people. We may look the same, work at the same places, eat the same food, drive the same cars, and go to the same grocery stores, but inside of us, we have abundant life; we are in Christ Jesus. We prioritize differently; eternity comes before now. So, it’s easy to forget that our words and actions often make no sense to the unsaved.

We forgive

We don’t seek opportunities to get some money by suing someone. We don’t revel in drunken wantonness on Friday nights. We don’t participate in family gossip. We practice random actions of kindness. We give our time and money to help people that will never be able to reciprocate our actions. We forgive; this is perhaps the single our most confusing action to the unsaved. And we pray, but not in the way that the unsaved would pray.

How can any unsaved person believe in prayer? They see Christians around the world suffering from persecution. Christians are murdered, stolen from, and pressed into forced labor. Where’s God, the lost say? But they have unregenerate eyes. They are unable to see God’s hand. For Christians, prayer isn’t intended to make us bulletproof. Our prayers are for the lost to be reconciled back to God through Jesus Christ and for the Bride of Christ to be obedient to the commands of Jesus. Yes, we pray for favor and protection, but we know that these prayers must always yield to the will of God. We don’t lose our faith when God says, “No.”

God’s agenda

Jesus flat out told us that we would be like sheep to the slaughter (Romans 8:36), and we see more of that now than ever in the history of Christianity. Our lives are transient; here today, gone tomorrow. We all have an expiration date. So Almighty God is focused on each person’s eternity. He loves us, so He blesses us, but His agenda is about moving history forward to the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10) and not to lose any that are His (John 6:39).

So, the next time someone asks you to pray for them, let them know that you’ll first pray for their eternity and then pray for their need.

Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash


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Bible study - open Bible and notebook

Bible Study, May 18, 2021

This is just an fyi. The class starts at 10:30 AM Eastern time. Here’s the link: https://fb.me/e/2O8Ewy279

I will live stream our Bible study on Facebook. I’m using “Finding Christ in the Pentateuch” for my teaching guide. You can follow the lesson without the book. So, please feel free to join us.

British Royal Guard

You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody

Gotta Serve Somebody

Verse
You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, maybe somebody’s heir

Chorus
Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

– Bob Dylan

Serve Somebody

Mr. Dyan had just openly said he’d become a Christian at the time this song came out. The first time I heard Dylan sing “Gotta Serve Somebody” I thought his verses were just throw-aways and his point was that we all must serve somebody. But, over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for those silly or, at least, eccentric verses. 

In “Gotta Serve Somebody” Dylan is saying that no matter who you are or think you are, from the homeless to dictators of nations you can’t be the “alpha dog”. Since we’re Adam’s seed, we either serve the devil or Jesus. Those are the only two options for the sons and daughters of Adam.

You see, “Gotta Serve Somebody” sits on top of a solid Biblical truth. Though said in diverse ways throughout the Bible, we find this openly declared in 2 Peter 2:19 (NIV), which reads, “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.’

A good and comforting feeling

So, are you a servant of Jesus? You aren’t unless you’ve received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and been regenerated. To say that another way – “…you must be born again.” (John 3:7 NIV) Right up front, the Apostle Paul lets us know whom he serves in Romans 1:1 (NIV), “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – ” He is a servant of Jesus.

As Christians, we are servants of Jesus. Before our rebirth, we were servants of the devil for he is “the god of this world

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

It’s a good and comforting feeling to know we belong to the Creator of compassion. The world is full of oppressed people whose master thrills in their suffering. That’s why Jesus gave us “The Great Commission”:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Prayer

Lord Jesus I ask that nothing would have a higher place in my life than you. Teach me to know my place and to rest in Your righteousness, power, mercy, and grace. You know my fears, you see my tears and you hear my cry for your calling to work its way in me, through me, and out into others. I am your servant, Jesus, and I listen for your call. Amen.

Photo by Mark Leishman on Unsplash


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people eating in a restaurant

Pray for Their Eternity

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

Christians confuse the unsaved

I heard a commentary recently that reminded me how confusing Christians are to unsaved people. We may look the same, work at the same places, eat the same food, drive the same cars, and go to the same grocery stores, but inside of us, we have abundant life; we are in Christ Jesus. So, it’s easy to forget that our words and actions often make no sense to the unsaved.

We don’t seek opportunities to get money by suing someone. We don’t revel in drunken wantonness on Friday nights. We don’t participate in family gossip. We practice random actions of kindness. We give our time and money to help people that will never be able to reciprocate our actions or even know us. We forgive; this is perhaps our single most confusing action to the unsaved. And we pray, but not in the way that the unsaved would pray.

We don’t pray like the unsaved

How can any unsaved person believe in prayer? They see Christians around the world suffering from persecution. Christians are murdered, stolen from, and pressed into forced labor. What good did their prayers do, the lost say? But they have unregenerate eyes. They are unable to see God’s hand.

For Christians, prayer isn’t intended to make us bulletproof. Our prayers are for the lost to be reconciled back to God through Jesus Christ and for the Bride of Christ to be obedient to the commands of Jesus. Yes, we pray for favor and protection, but we know that these prayers must always yield to the will of God. We don’t lose our faith when God says, “No.”

Pray for their eternity

Jesus flat out told us that we would be like sheep to the slaughter (Romans 8:36), and we see more of that now than ever in the history of Christianity. Our lives are transient; here today, gone tomorrow. We all have an expiration date. So Almighty God is focused on each person’s eternity. He loves us, so He blesses us, but His agenda is about moving history forward to the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10) and not to lose any that are His (John 6:39).

So, the next time someone asks you to pray for them, let them know that you’ll first pray for their eternity and then pray for their need.


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